Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Out of darkness comes light

Today the United States makes a significant step forward in cultural evolution with the election of the first chief executive of a race different from the room full of guys who stood together 230-odd years ago and launched this nation on its crazy course. We can all feel rightly uplifted by this acceptance that we should judge each other as human beings, not sorted into some sub-category.

Many factors contributed to bring this nation to the point where enough people would believe this at the same time and have the power to bring it about. Not the least of these is how bad the preceding executive has been. This takes absolutely nothing from Barack Obama. It says more about the sluggish, halting nature of humanity's trudge toward enlightenment. It takes big things to spur the first change in a series of changes long overdue.

If the attacks of September 11, 2001, had not occurred, George W. Bush would probably have been a one-term joke, an embarrassment like a big zit on prom night. The shock and fear the nation felt after the stunning blow delivered by foreign criminals in 2001 panicked enough people into mistaking Bush for an actual president that his reelection in 2004 was nearly guaranteed.

Granted, Bush and his administration were so bad that the election of 2004 was hotly contested and ugly. If he had really been transformed by 9-11-01 into a good choice to lead this country, his reelection in 2004 would have made more sense. But in a way it's a blessing he prevailed. We had to descend deeper into the morass of his creation to be ready to accept a very new choice in national leadership.

Obama emerged as a compelling speaker in the Democrats' losing bid in 2004. His eloquence and thoughtfulness spread the comforting image of a well-spoken leader. Such things were possible, if only we could hang on.

I did not choose Obama initially. He seemed a little young, although he is not the youngest to assume the Presidency. Initially his policies did not appeal to me as much as a little from this candidate and something else from that one. But as the campaign evolved, other candidates fell away. They have returned as advisors and cabinet nominees, which keeps alive the hope that the Obama administration will incorporate their good ideas.

Obama himself probably feels the responsibility of his historical significance as well as the burdens of the office itself. Let us not as a nation heap too much weight on the racial issue when the real duties and challenges of the Presidency will demand so much energy and attention. We did not elect a black man. We elected a person who appears to possess the leadership qualities we need to help us emerge from a tough time made worse by incompetent, corrupt and narrow-minded government. He happens to come from a different racial background than all of the nation's previous choices for more than two centuries. Judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character. And that's how it should be.

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